Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Dhu'l-Qa'dah / Zil-Hijjah 1423 H
February 2003
Volume 16-02 No : 194
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Our Dialogue


Status of Marriage after Wife Embraces Islam
Value of Praising Someone
Etiquettes of Ghusl
Joining Congregation in the Second Rakaah
Tiring Oneself for Greater Reward
The Prophet's Names
Wearing a Beard
Purchase by Installments


By Adil Salahi

Status of Marriage after Wife Embraces Islam

Q. I am a Filipino Christian and I am now convinced that Islam is God's true religion. Before I declare myself a Muslim I would like to know the answer to some very important questions. First, must I separate from my Christian husband if he refuses to join me in embracing Islam? What if he raises no objection to my becoming a Muslim, but does not convert himself? Second, I am told that I could marry another man, but in my home country, no divorce is allowed. Should I marry, would I be open to a charge of bigamy? Third, I have three volumes of Towards Understanding the Qur'an by Maulana Maudoodi. I want to know if further volumes have been published.

A. It is practically known to most people, and all scholars that when a woman becomes a Muslim, while her husband remains a non-Muslim, then the marriage is nullified, either instantly or when her waiting period is over. This view is based on the ruling that no Muslim woman may be married to a non-Muslim. Just like a Muslim woman cannot enter into a marriage contract with a non-Muslim, she may not remain married to him after she has become a Muslim. But I have always said that I am only a student of Islamic law and jurisprudence. There is certainly much that I do not know.

Very recently I read what Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim has written on this question in his book Ahkam Ahl Al-Thimmah, (or Rulings for non-Muslim Subjects). He points out that scholars up to his generation differed a great deal on this question, and he enumerates 9 different views. He then discusses these views and states the argument of scholars who rule that marriage is nullified once either party has become a Muslim and the other has not. Ibn Al-Qayyim speaks at length on one of the 9 views which is based on a report by Muhammad ibn Sireen on the authority of Abdullah ibn Yazeed Al-Khutami, a companion of the Prophet, stating that “a woman embraced Islam, while her husband was a Christian. Umar ibn Al-Khattab gave her the choice either to separate from him or to stay married to him.”

Ibn Al-Qayyim explains that this does not mean that she stayed married to him in the full sense of the term. She simply waits for him. When he becomes a Muslim, she is his wife, even if that takes several years. He comments: “This is the most valid view on this question, as evidenced by the Sunnah. It is the view preferred by Ibn Taimiyah.” He also explains that the marriage in this case becomes an option, not a binding status. This means that the woman may choose to terminate it, or to keep it, provided that she does not put it into effect until her husband has become a Muslim.

Explaining his and Ibn Taimiyah’s preference, Ibn Al-Qayyim, who was one of the top scholars in our history, takes up the case of Zaynab, the Prophet’s daughter, who became a Muslim in Makkah. Her husband was very late in adopting Islam. She stayed married to him, living with him in Makkah, even after the Prophet had migrated to Madinah. In the Battle of Badr, her husband, Abul-Aas ibn Al-Rabie’ was taken prisioner by the Muslims. On his release, it appears that the Prophet asked him to send Zaynab to Madinah, which he did. Then six years later, Abul-Aas, still a non-Muslim, was in Madinah, granted protection by his wife. She asked the Prophet, her father, whether he could stay in her home. He said: “He is your husband, but he may not have you.” A few weeks later, and after he had been to Makkah and back to Madinah, Abul-Aas embraced Islam, and he was reunited with his wife, without a new marriage contract.

What the Prophet’s order to his daughter means is that if the wife is a Muslim and her husband is not, they may not have intercourse. That is because the marriage remains in force only as an option. The woman has the other option of separation and marrying a Muslim man. (This is the summary of the view Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim supports).

Imam Ibn Taimiyah says: “To say that once either spouse has become a Muslim while the other has not, separation takes effect, whether the marriage has been consummated or not, is very flimsy. It runs against what is well known to have been the repeated practice under Islamic law.” Ibn Taimiyah records hundreds, if not thousands, of cases of people becoming Muslims before their marriage partners during the lifetime of the Prophet, and the marriage not nullified in any of their cases.

The sum up of this view is that the woman who becomes a Muslim, while her husband remains a non-Muslim, has a choice either to separate from him, or stay married to him without sexual contact until he becomes a Muslim.

Sheikh Yussuf Al-Qaradhawi, a leading contemporary scholar, also discusses this question, and concludes by putting forward two views which may form the basis of rulings on individual cases. The first view is that given by Ali ibn Abu Talib, which allows the marriage to remain valid unless the woman leaves her hometown to live with a Muslim community. The second is that advanced by Az-Zuhri, a famous scholar of the generation that followed the Prophet’s companions. Under this view, the couple remain married unless a court ruling is issued to separate them.

Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi also states that in these views we find much scope for women who choose to become Muslim. Many would hesitate to do so for fear of losing their children and families. This view, he says, may be hard to accept by many Muslims, because it is at variance with what they have learned and accepted over a long period of time. But we all know that Islam has allowed many situations to continue, if they were started before the parties to them became Muslim, while it would not allow them to be initiated by those who are Muslims already.

I have here quoted great scholars who have commanded great respect throughout the Muslim world for many generations, and a contemporary scholar of the highest calibre. Their views must be taken with the seriousness and respect of which they are worthy.

Maulana Maudoodi’s book, Towards Understanding the Qur’an, is the English version of his Urdu commentary Tafheem Al-Quran. As for the number of volumes already published, you may contact the publishers: The Islamic Foundation, Markfield Conference Center, Ratby Lane, Markfield, Leicester LS67 9SY, UK.

Markazi Maktaba Islami, 1353, Chitli Qabr, New Delhi - 110006 Ph.: 011-23262862.

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Value of Praising Someone

Q. A friend of mine argues that it is not permissible in Islam to praise someone to his face. Others argue that such praise encourages him to do more good. Moreover, medals, awards and certificates of appreciation are given by different bodies in appreciation of good work done by different people. Please comment.

A. There is no doubt that Islam does not encourage praise to one’s face in public. Some people may begin to feel that they are superior to others when they are praised time after time for their good work. Moreover, praise is shunned when it is offered to a governor, ruler, or a person in authority, even one’s superior at work. That is because in most cases the praise is made for ulterior motives, or to win favour with the person who is so praised. There is often an element of hypocrisy in such praise.

On the other hand, when a person praises another in private with the intention to encourage him to do more good actions, and without any personal or ulterior motive, then that is acceptable. People do like to feel appreciated. If such appreciation will encourage a person to do more good work, and there is no question of hypocrisy in the matter, then praising a person for the qualities he certainly has is appropriate. The point concerning medals and awards does not come in the same category, because that is a gesture of appreciation, not praise.

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Etiquettes of Ghusl

Q. Could you please explain how a woman should conduct her grand ablution, or ghusl? Is taking a shower sufficient? May I also ask whether it is permissible to perform one's ablution or wudhu when one is totally undressed?

A. The ghusl or grand ablution requires washing all one’s body with water. But Islam always makes things easy, so that we could comply with God’s order without having too much trouble. Since some women have long hair which they make in plaits or a time-consuming style, they are not required to undo their hair. What a woman needs to do is to take a handful of water and rub her head with her hand. She does this three times before pouring water over the rest of her body. It is also recommended to start by doing the normal ablution, or wudhu. It is important to wash all one’s body. Therefore, a shower is a very good way of performing the ghusl. It is also good enough to have a dip in a swimming pool, a river or the sea, if one is able to do so without exposing her body before strangers. If a person is taking a bath it is appropriate to perform the ordinary ablution, or wudhu, without having any clothes on. This is true in our modern houses where one is completely alone in one’s bathroom.

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Joining Congregation in the Second Rakaah

Q. If the imam in a congregational prayer is in his second rakaah when we arrive and we know that he reads a long passage of the Qur'an, is it right that a newcomer starts with his first rakaah alone and when he has completed it, he joins up with the congregation in their second rakaah.

A. It is not possible to join the imam during one’s own salah. When we join a congregation we initiate our salah and join the imam immediately. If he has finished one rakaah or more before we join, we complete our salah after he has finished. This is the only correct way.

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Tiring Oneself for Greater Reward

Q. Having read a Hadith in Al-Bukhari that a pilgrim will be rewarded in proportion to the amount of money he spends and the physical effort he undertakes, my rich friend plans to spend very generously on his pilgrimage and to cover the distance between the different places walking. Please comment.

A. While Allah rewards us richly for doing what He has assigned to us as duties, He also takes into account the trouble we take in order to fulfill these duties. A person who is in difficult circumstances, trying to save a little every month in order to pay for his journey to offer the pilgrimage, is rewarded for his persistence and determination to fulfill this duty. An old man who is physically weak and finds the tawaf and sa’ie very tiring, particularly when the area is overcrowded earns more reward for the extra physical effort he makes. But this does not mean that we should try to tire ourselves out in order to earn more reward. There are plenty of other ways which ensure greater reward.

If we take the case of this rich man, he may decide to fly first class in order to increase his spending on his pilgrimage. But this is wrong. He may get more reward if he flies on a cheaper ticket and gives the difference as sadaqah or charity. Similarly, he gains little by walking from Makkah to Arafat, particularly if he is not used to walking. He could travel in a more comfortable way and, if he wants more reward, he may offer night worship after the pilgrimage is over. What is important to realise is that there is no virtue in deliberately tiring ourselves out. If we have to make a greater effort because of our circumstances, God gives us reward for that, but we do not need to cause ourselves discomfort for that.

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The Prophet's Names

Q. Could you please clarify whether it is true that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) also has 99 names. To my knowledge, this is true of Allah only. Please comment.

A. The Prophet is called by several names, but the name he was given at birth was Muhammad. His mother reports that she heard a voice telling her that she was carrying a boy who would be the best of mankind, and that she should call him Muhammad. His grandfather wanted to call him Ahmad, which is his second name mentioned in the Qur’an. Both these names are derived from a root that signifies praise. Muhammad in particular means ‘one who is often praised.’ From the same root a further name is derived, which is Mahmood. The Prophet is also called by other names, but these are mostly attributes or qualities which he is known to have had. An example of these is Mustafa, which means ‘chosen.’ Furthermore, he is described in the Qur’an by certain qualities, and some people claim that these are also names of his. This is not true, because some of these are attributes of Allah, such as Ra’oof and Raheem, which mean kind and compassionate respectively. When these are used on their own, they refer to Allah, not to the Prophet.

To find 99 names and qualities by which to call the Prophet will require some arbitrary usage of such qualities. Besides, there is nothing to be gained by such an exercise. We know that the Prophet combined the best qualities that could be found in the best of people. To give him a name for each such quality is a totally unnecessary exercise. People, however, think that by doing so they demonstrate their great love of the Prophet. The fact is that such love is best demonstrated by following the Prophet’s example in everyday life.

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Wearing a Beard

Q. What is the size recommended for a man's beard in Islam?

A. Muslim men are recommended to wear a beard and not to shave. The Prophet is reported to have said: “Trim your mustaches and keep your beards.” This does not indicate any size which may be said to be recommended. However, most scholars agree that a beard should be of a reasonable length, which is neither too short so as to look like that of one who has not shaved for a few days, and not too long so as to be overgrown. However, some people have recently come up with the idea that one should neither trim his beard nor even take off an over-growth. This is insupportable, because the Hadith does not indicate that. Moreover, it is contrary to the Hadith which tells us that we should take care of our hair. The Prophet has given us guidance which consistently indicates that we should always take care of our appearance, doing only what is suitable for a Muslim man with a serious approach to life. This means that a beard should always be of moderate length, as fits one’s face image.

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Purchase by Installments

Q.1.A person may have to use the facility of buying expensive items, such as a car or a house, or even less expensive items, on installments. This may involve the payment of interest. Is this acceptable from the Islamic point of view?

Q.2. Is stoning to death the Islamic punishment for adultery? I could not find it in the Qur'an.

A.1. Much depends on the form that the purchase takes. If you go to a car dealer and say that you want to pay for your car over a period of time, and he says to you that the price will be so much for immediate payment, but a higher one for payment over a period of, say, two years, this is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, if the car dealer offers to make arrangements for you with a finance company so that you pay over the same period and at the same price he has quoted, this is strongly objectionable, and may be forbidden. In this latter form, you are actually obtaining from the finance company a loan in the amount of the cash price of the car, which the company pays to the car dealer on your behalf. You then repay your loan with interest. In the first form, you are buying the car for a higher price because of the payment arrangements, while in the second you are borrowing money and repaying it with increase. As for buying a house on mortgage, this is permissible.

A.2. You are right when you say that the punishment of stoning is not mentioned in the Qur’an. It relies on a Hadith that defines the punishment for adultery. It should be said that according to the weightier opinion, this is not a mandatory or hadd punishment that cannot be waived. Rather, it is discretionary. Moreover, Islamic punishments are established mostly for deterrence. This applies to the punishment for adultery which requires either a free, unsolicited confession, or testimony by four qualified witnesses who state that they have personally seen the offence being committed.

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